Saturday, August 2, 2008

Favorite Movie Villains #100 - 91

Escapist pop culture fare is pretty much the greatest thing; cinema in particular I am something of a buff / addict of as you may have gleaned, being the detective you are. And the best part of a lot of movies is the villain. A movie doesn't have to have a villain - a lot of comedies do just fine without one - but for a flick with a strong hero figure, action movies in particular, a villain definitely helps to instigate a conflict, which is of course the root of drama. And let's be honest, villains are just a lot of fun. Sometimes they're generic and boring, but sometimes they steal the movie right out from under the hero and when they are offscreen you wish they weren't. Sometimes you even want to see them win.

So I've decided it's time for me to rank my all-time top 100 bad guys - or bad people, let's be PC here - from the silver screen. I know that a top 100 seems excessive, and I agree - I initially planned for a top 25, but there was just wayyy too many I couldn't stand leaving off. The pain was nigh unbearable. So that became a top 50, and then I just decided to go for broke and do 100. "This shit just got real," I said to myself while calmly walking away from an explosion in slow motion.

But first, a couple quick notes. 1) I don't like horror movies that much. It's probably my least favorite genre. Ergo, I'll go ahead and lessen anyone's disappointment by saying that Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and other horror icons are not represented on my list. They haven't entertained me much and I don't like them much, so yeah. Also 2) This is primarily a fun-centric list. So while Amon Goeth from Schindler's List is certainly one of the most chilling villains in any picture in history, I would also have to include Hitler from Downfall and a ton of other vile historical dictators, and this is meant as a reflection on entertainment, so... yeah. Let's keep it relatively light. That said,

"Here we gooo!" (Mario)

100. Darth Maul (Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace)

"At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge."

While he was certainly overrated by eager thirteen-year-old Star Wars fanboys back in 1999, the badass but ultimately flat character of Darth Maul does have a few big things to his villainous credit: 1) He has a double-bladed lightsaber and uses it to put on a sensational fight that led to popped eyeballs and messy shorts across the nation. 2) His fighting theme song is arguably John Williams' finest accomplishment of the prequel trilogy. And 3), he killed Qui-Gon, the one actual cool Jedi introduced in the prequel trilogy. What a Sith bastard!

99. Guy de Lusignan (Kingdom of Heaven)

"Give me a war."

First off, this is referring to the outstanding Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut DVD, which transformed the mediocre theatrical cut into one of my favorite films of 2005. But whichever cut you go by, Guy de Lusignan is a crazy, vile sociopath whose lust for war and ignoring of Orlando Bloom's battle tactics leads to the deaths of thousands of men. He also very literally kills the messenger in one gratuitous but hilariously violent scene. It's interesting to do a war movie where the main hero and main villain are technically on the same side, but in this case it certainly works.

98. Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me / Moonraker)

"His name's Jaws, he kills people." ~ James Bond

Bond villain alert! He's not a man of many words, but the beauty of Jaws lies is his simplicity: he tears people's throats out with his iron teeth and is seemingly completely invincible. James Bond throws him out of a train and runs a truck into him and takes his parachute away when they fall out of a plane together and throws him into the water with a shark and shoots him in the face (which Jaws deflects with his teeth and keeps on grinning!), but every time, Jaws returns with nary a dent in the fender, ready to kill again. He turns on the villain at the end of Moonraker, but until that point is seemingly the most unstoppable force 007 has ever encountered.

97. Alonzo Harris (Training Day)

"King Kong ain't got shit on me!"

"Tour de force" is one of those irritating critical buzzwords that makes my balls ache, but in this ONE case I'll make an exception and say that this is a tour de force performance from Denzel Washington. We all love a crooked cinematic cop, but Washington elevates the concept to a hilarious, charismatic, vile new height of villainy, planting evidence, framing people, drugging his partner, threatening at gunpoint, and eventually just flat-out torturing and murdering in his pursuit of "justice," while being a gumball machine of great quotes all the while. To say he steals the movie would be an understatement.

96. King Kong (King Kong)

"Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!" ~ Carl Denham

And speaking of the one who doesn't have shit on Alonzo Harris - King Kong may not be the first movie monster but he's certainly the one most singularly emblematic of the Golden Age of cinema, and represents a major revolution in special effects. And this is specifically referring to the 1933 version, not the 2005. Peter Jackson's gentle giant interpretation protects his girlfriend from dinosaurs and ice skates across the pond; in contrast, the 1933 version grabs an innocent lady from a Manhattan skyscraper apartment window and drops her to her death just for fun. They hadn't quite invented nuance yet in 1933.

95. The Wet Bandits (Home Alone)

"Santy don't visit the funeral homes, little buddy."

Harry and Marv are crazy and retarded. They have no problem killing a little kid, but at the same time they are so stupid that they are defeated by the same little kid (twice!) using cleverly-placed Christmas ornaments, toy cars, nails stood upright in oil, blowtorches, and even less subtly in part two, nail guns, thrown bricks, and electrocution. Needless to say, as a five-year-old in 1990, this was a hilarious and awesome kid empowerment fantasy. But with all due respect to Marv, the greatest joy here is watching Scorsesian actor Joe Pesci, who can be absolutely terrifying when asked of him, stoop down to the level of getting intellectually bested by Macaulay Culkin twice over. The Wet Bandits rule.

94. Kamal Khan (Octopussy)

"Mr. Bond is indeed a very rare breed... soon to be made extinct."

Bond villain alert! Octopussy is certainly the most underrated Roger Moore Bond film, and Kamal Khan is one of the underrated Bond villains. Taking the "snooty evil rich guy" Bond villain archetype to a logical conclusion it hasn't quite reached again since, Khan lives in a giant palace, surrounds himself with hulking henchmen and beautiful women, eats only the finest Indian delicacies, cheats at backgammon, speaks in a snooty accent, and in exchange for some jewelry conspires to help an insane Soviet general destroy / take control of Europe. The one flaw in his plan he didn't foresee? James Bond, of course! He then plays The Most Dangerous Game with Bond. Kamal Khan is rich, crazy, and awesome.

93. Gogo Yubari (Kill Bill)

"You call that begging? You can beg better than that."

Psychopathic Asian cutie in short skirt wields bladed ball-and-chain. It's simple enough to be brilliant, and I commend Quentin Tarantino for coming up with it. It also helps that the fight scene she has with Beatrix Kiddo not only steals Kill Bill Vol. 1, but is probably the best one-on-one fight scene in the whole duology. She's the one opponent who actually gives Beatrix a legitimate and very nearly fatal fight, and watching Beatrix's battles between Gogo and Bill side by side, I have no reason to believe that Gogo couldn't just go kill Bill herself if she wanted and take control of the whole operation.

92. Simon Gruber (Die Hard: With a Vengeance)

"I want to play a game."

After the relatively botched Die Hard 2, the producers no doubt knew that John McClane is only at his best when matched up against badass Eurotrash terrorists. And who could possibly hold a candle in that regard to Alan Rickman in Die Hard? Duh - Jeremy Irons, asshole! The game and riddle-obsessed Simon Gruber plants explosives all over New York City and holds the metropolis in a reign of terror, all while taking on Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson TOGETHER - that's about as villainous as it gets. So why so low? Well, he pussies out on his promise to blow up an elementary school (his brother Hans would have never been so noble) and he also kind of goes out like a punk. But although he died an idiot, let it not be said that Simon Gruber did not live a mass-murdering, riddle-spewing badass.

91. Phyllis Dietrichson (Double Indemnity)

"We're both rotten."
"Only you're a little more rotten."

~ Phyllis Dietrichson & Walter Neff

The dark queen of all femme fatales, Phyllis Dietrichson oozes liquid sex, knows it, and for a little money will happily wield her feminine assets to manipulate men to kill one another. With a few minutes of flirtation and a showing of a little leg, Phyllis convinces mild-mannered insurance salesman Walter Neff to murder her husband so she can get his life insurance. It later comes out that she probably killed her now-deceased husband's wife when she was her nurse, and already has a new boyfriend, who she is probably planning to have kill Walter so she can get away with her money. Basically, Phyllis Dietrichson is a cunt. But damn if she doesn't glow onscreen and convince you that this is a dame worth killing for.

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